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Sewickley Academy's 175-Year History

1838: The first Sewickley Academy is founded

In 1838, John Champ and William Nevin opened a school for boys in Sewickley Bottoms¸ PA. They used local patron Squire John Way’s brick home as the first official school building.

1841: The first Sewickley Academy closes its doors.

Despite heavy marketing, the school could not stay afloat financially, and closed in 1841.

1843: SA in its second home, The Fife House

The Reverend Joseph Travelli re-opened the Academy in 1843 and classes were held in the Fife House, formerly located on the corner of Grove and Grimes Streets.


1860 brought the outbreak of the Civil War and many of the Academy's students were drawn into the conflict.  The Reverend Joseph Travelli's son was killed in action and the school was ultimately closed.

1865: The Old Brick Church

After the conclusion of the Civil War, community members rallied together to reopen the school.  Its headquarters at that time were in the old Presbyterian Church.

1892: Miss Munson and Miss Dickinson

After a series of different iterations of the Academy, Sewickley education is handed over to two educators, Miss Munson and Miss Dickinson.  Miss Munson's school primarily served male students while Miss Dickinson's classes were all female.  There was a potent rivalry between these two institutions.

1925: Consolidation and the New Sewickley Academy

By the mid-1920s, both Miss Munson and Miss Dickinson were nearing their retirements and concerned about the future of their schools.  Working with the community, they consolidated their separate schools to form the fifth and current Sewickley Academy in 1925.


The Sewickley Echo was a brochure/yearbook from the first year of the newly consolidated Academy.


Sewickley Academy's basketball squad in 1927.


The Academy opened its doors on the cusp of the Great Depression and the school was not immune to the national financial crisis.  In 1933, Alexander C. Tener, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Sewickley Academy at that time, wrote to all of the trustees asking each to underwrite $300 of the operating deficit for that year, so they could close the books and keep the school open.


Academy students use their creative skills for a production of Alice in Wonderland in 1934.

World War II

During WWII, Sewickley Academy once again falls into deficit.  SA alumni fight hard in the war and contribute to the war effort back at home.  The Academy's trustees also pitch in, once again reaching into their own pockets to curb the school's deficit.

The Sewickley/Pittsburgh community publishes "News and Views of all of Youse," as a means for keeping track of all the Academy alumni, friends, and family involved in the war effort overseas.


In 1944, continued concern from the community prompts a reorganization of the Academy.  With an entirely new board of trustees with expanded responsibilities, the school began to prosper along with the country.

1949: Memorial Day Traditions

Students, faculty, and SA families celebrate Memorial Day in 1949.

1950s: Cliff Nichols

1950 brought Cliff Nichols, long-time head of school to the Academy.  One of Cliff's signature characteristics was his morning ritual of shaking every student's hand as he or she entered the building.


The mens' volleyball team in 1957. In this same year, expansion begins with the addition of a one-story nursery school.

1966: The Senior School

In 1963, the Senior School was built at Sewickley Academy and in 1966, SA graduated its first 12th grade class.


Senior school cheerleaders during the 1967-68 school year.

1970: The Fire

In January of 1970, a fire of unknown origin ravaged Sewickley Academy.  An outpouring of community support ensured that much of the Academy's belongings were saved and the school would be rebuilt.


The Class of 1974 in the new dance studio.


The cast of Dracula Academy in 1979.


During this period, the Academy experienced a period of great expansion.  The campus grew physically and teachers began to incorporate new technologies into their curriculums.


Students begin the groundbreaking for the Oliver Science Building in 1985.


The Class of 1986 frolics in the fall weather outside the main entrance to Sewickley Academy.


The 1990s were years of strategic planning, campus expansion and increased diversity.  The Academy began to shift from a community school built on strong traditions and a proud history to what many considered the "school of choice" in the greater Pittsburgh area.  To accomodate for growth in the student population, Headmaster Ham Clark and the Board of Trustees implemented a new Master Plan for campus expansion that included many new academic spaces on campus.


The Class of 1991 during their senior year at SA.


In 1993, as a means of contributing to the Pittsburgh community, Sewickley Academy established its Summerbridge Pittsburgh program, a six-week, tuition-free academic enrichment program for middle and high school students facing limited opportunities.


The 1997 boys' basketball team won the PIAA Championship, which was the Academy's first-ever state championship in any sport.


The new millenium brings increased technology and a focus on global education to SA.


After 15 years of dedicated service, Ham Clark resigned as headmaster and the Academy community welcomed Kolia O'Connor as the new head of school.  Kolia brought 16 years of independent school experience as a teacher and an administrator.


In 2004, a strategic plan was developed that included input from 700 members of the Academy community. Centered on these strategic goals, the PICTURE THIS Campaign was launched in 2007 as the most ambitious fundraising effort in school history.  The campaign, chaired by Nancy Means '72, Jeffrey Lenchner '77, and Amy Simmons Sebastian '80 added $15 million to the school's endowment - funding many innovative projects that enhanced the educational experience for all students.


The Clark Faculty Chair was established in 2003 to honor the Clarks' many contributions to the Academy community.  In 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Clark returned to campus and are pictured with past Clark Faculty Chairs: Susan Pross, Patricia Rose, Barbara Carrier, Larry Connolly, and Tom Perdziola.


Academic programs were strengthened and globalized with the addition of Mandarin Chinese and the launch of the Global Studies program, which offered students the opportunity to earn a Global Studies Certificate upon graduation.


Sewickley Academy students win the 2009 Science Olympiad State Championship.


White dresses for women and blue blazers for men have been the traditional graduation attire for Sewickley Academy graduates for over 100 years.

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